BOOM! Oda Nobutada was just about to arrive at the cliff when the incredible phenomenon struck. An enormous pillar of Yin energy surged into the sky just beyond the edge of the cliff, before dissipating into a lingering veil of green and black.
Black Yaksha seized up.
Is this… an Abyssal Prefect?!
What’s an Abyssal Prefect doing here?
He froze for a second before snapping his eyes towards the skeletal war horse that lay right in front of him. Oda Nobutada had already directed his war horse to charge right towards the edge of the cliff.
He knew he would certainly die if he turned back.
If he forged forward, there was a good chance he would die as well. But… at least there was still some glimmer of hope!
Meanwhile, Black Yaksha had a completely different view of the matter.
They know each other?
Is this the person from Hell who’s meant to be receiving him?
He didn’t dare probe further at the source of the terrifying Yin energy. After all, he could tell that this was an Abyssal Prefect - an existence which was equal to Lady Izanami of the Nipponese underworld! He wasn’t suicidal enough to provoke an existence as mighty as that!
Without further thought, he glared hatefully at Oda Nobutada, before cursing him aloud, “Count yourself lucky--…”
But before he could even finish his statement, his entire body suddenly trembled violently. His hair and clothes scattered about wildly, and he even let out a shrill shriek of terror, because he could sense… a terrifying presence staring directly at him.
It was almost as though this presence were peering right through the veil and into the depths of his soul.
No words were needed. At once, Black Yaksha gnashed his teeth and scuttled off into the distance as quickly as his legs would take him.
But… surprisingly, the Abyssal Prefect didn’t give chase at all.
Everything was dark. The stream of nethergale that represented Black Yaksha continued to flee as quickly as it could until it was thousands of meters away, before he finally paused and glanced behind him with much palpitation.
Both the cliff and the sea were still exactly where they were.
If not for how wildly his heart was still thumping right now, he would never have believed that he had just had an encounter with an Abyssal Prefect.
“This is Cathay… This is the strongest underworld in the entire netherworld…” He raised his hands to wipe off the profuse sweat on his forehead, only to realize that he was still trembling so violently that he couldn’t move properly, “To think that Cathay would even station an Abyssal Prefect in such a remote part of the mortal realm… One can only imagine what the legendary Fengdu Necropolis is supposed to look like… It’s no wonder every foreign ambassador we send out would return with a glazed look in their eyes…”
Just then, Black Yaksha felt someone suddenly tap on his shoulder.
He was still high-strung and spooked from his earlier encounter. Without further thought, he immediately unleashed his claws and took a ferocious swipe behind him as he sought to put some distance between himself and his ‘assailant’.
Thud… Crow Tengu’s head was cleanly sliced off his neck, and it fell straight to the ground in an instant. The rest of the body clumsily hobbled over to its head and picked it up, “Haa… What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Where’s Lee Jung-sook?!!” Black Yaksha’s eyes flickered as he glared at the man behind him.
“Haa… Don’t worry, I’ve put her to sleep for some time. She… won’t be coming to her senses in a little while…”
It was only then that Black Yaksha finally shut his eyes and heaved a long sigh of relief. Moments later, he raised his trembling hands and glanced at them helplessly, “I’ve just encountered a Cathayan Abyssal Prefect.”
“An Emissary of Hell?!” Crow Tengu blurted back with a tone of voice nearly an octave higher than before.
“It has to be.” Black Yaksha gnashed his teeth, “Otherwise, do you really think that Hell would allow a Prefect-class Yin spirit to do as it likes back here in the mortal realm?”
“Apart from that… I also saw Oda Nobutada… and he was wielding the very same Kiku-ichimonji used by the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven.”
“Hoo… Has the Oda Clan earned the favour of an Abyssal Prefect?” Crow Tengu muttered hoarsely as it slowly began to reattach his own head.
Crow Tengu gazed deep into the distant sky, “But it matters not. I recall that this is the first time the stone tablet is showing the real name of the King Yanluo of Hell. I concur with Lee Jung-sook’s conjecture that the Cathayan Hell has closed its borders because they’re currently undergoing a change of dynasty. Then, that leaves us with the Oda Clan, and the unknown Abyssal Prefect…”
Crow Tengu looked back at Black Yaksha with a confused expression, clearly unsure of what to make of it.
Both Crow Tengu and Black Yaksha continued to drift along the road with their toes hanging in the air, while all wandering spirits in the vicinity would shriek and give way to them. Black Yaksha responded with disdain in his voice, “You idiot. Think about it. Where the hell are we right now?”
“We’re in Eastmount, the closest place to Nippon!”
“Do you even mull over historical events? The first thing that every successor to the throne does is always to knock on the doors of their neighbouring countries! The first thing he’s done would be to station an Abyssal Prefect at the coastal regions. If my suspicions are right…” He gnashed his teeth, “I’m afraid that this new King Yanluo of Hell… is looking to make a move against Nippon.”
“Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any reason to station an Abyssal Prefect here, together with the Oda Clan! We’ve got all the intel on where the Cathayan Abyssal Prefects are stations. The Abyssal Prefect overseeing the Eastmount and Breakwaters region is located at Skytribute City, and not in the Azurewaters City!”
Crow Tengu grew silent.
“Moreover, the Oda Clan is naturally the best clan to involve as far as a siege against Nippon is concerned. Sure, if either one of them had been here, it could simply be explained away as a mere coincidence… but this is just one too many to still be a coincidence!”
“There’s still the revelation of dynastic change as revealed on the stone tablet…” He shut his eyes, “Crow Tengu… I think I’m going to stay a while.”
“Are you nuts?!” Crow Tengu stared at Black Raksha with great disbelief.
Black Yaksha shook his head, “The Hungry Ghost Festival is just around the corner, and the gates of Hell are going to be open wide. According to Cathayan customs, Yin spirits would come out to roam the mortal realms. So long as we can find ourselves a Hellguard, we’d be able to capture him… and thus dispel all these questions in our minds.”
“But that’s an Emissary of Hell we’re talking about…” Crow Tengu gulped nervously, “How are we supposed to get away after that?”
“It’s a good thing that this place is located right by the sea. We’d be safe so long as we can escape from Cathay’s territorial waters. That said, if Lee Jung-sook manages to give us the slip… then we’d be completely stopped at the boundary of the Array of the Nine Gods. Keep her close in our sights. Meanwhile, I’ll send word to Lady Izanami to have her personally receive us right outside the territorial waters of Cathay.”
Oda Nobutada kept his eyes tightly shut until his skeletal war horse stood up from the ground and neighed powerfully. It was only then that he opened his eyes apprehensively and glanced about his surroundings with great trepidation.
They had rushed right to the edge of the cliff when the Prefect-class presence erupted from nowhere. But now, everything had vanished as abruptly as it had appeared. He heaved a sigh of relief, before muttering hoarsely, “Are you… alright?”
“I’m still alive…” Zhang Zeguang spoke with palpitations in his heart. Again, there was a period of tense silence between the two ghosts. And then, they slowly turned to look behind with tacit understanding.
A dense mist that had appeared out of nowhere, obfuscating their vision of the path from which they had come from.
A chorus of ghastly wails echoed everywhere, while the skies were concealed by a dense canopy of dark clouds. Illusory images of agonized human faces even appeared on the surface of the clouds from time to time, before slowly fading away, as though they were being dragged right back into the mires of despair. A frigid gust swept through the seaside cliffs, sending chills down the two ghosts’ spines.
That’s right… the Infernal Judge is gone, but there’s now an even more terrifying presence to contend with…
Dong~! Just then, a loud gong chimed from the depths of the clouds, followed closely by the proclamatory blare of sornas and celebratory chimes. A split second later, the gloomy clouds parted like the red sea, and 32 figures appeared, toting a majestic palanquin on the back of their shoulders.
It was a procession of humanoid paper effigies. All of them were cut in the shape of women, replete with combed-back hairstyles that was popular in the Song Dynasty. Some held gongs in their hands, some struck their chimes, while others blew into their sornas as they all drifted out from the depths of the clouds.
Dong, dong… Clang! Paper money scattered everywhere in the sky. Within moments, an otherwise secluded cliffside was instantly transformed into a ceremonial ground welcoming the arrival of a procession of humanoid paper effigies. Oda Nobutada gulped nervously as he pulled Zhang Zeguang behind him. He held Kiku-ichimonji horizontally across his chest and gazed intently at the arrival of the procession.
They drew closer and closer, and yet he couldn’t sense one bit of Yin energy emanating from their bodies. Even then, he couldn’t help but tense up his spirits all the more. 30 meters… 20 meters… His nerves were taut as a bowstring that was ready to fire!
Run! Get out of here right now! There’s a monster standing right before you!!!
A palpable fear surged from the depths of their hearts, causing them to shiver uncontrollably. And it was right at that moment that the peculiar procession finally came to a halt just ten meters away from them.
Without warning, the weight of a boundless and tyrannical mass of Yin energy bore down on them. Their minds went blank in an instant, and they couldn’t help but collapse to their knees.
How terrifying… What the hell is that thing?!
It’s even more terrifying than Yanluo Qin and Lady Arakshasa combined… Is this even an evil ghost? How could there be such a powerful existence in the mortal realm?
“Who are you?” A hoarse voice cut through the tense silence in the night sky.
Fwoosh… Each word was spoken with such might and authority that Oda Nobutada could even sense his soulfire flickering dangerously, almost as though it would go out at any instant. The Yin energy in their surroundings were so dense that they had begun to materialize and take the form of pieces of iron, while the chorus of mourning ghosts continued to echo throughout the darkness. Oda Nobutada gnashed his teeth and mustered all of his strength as he responded, “First Battalion of Hell, Major Oda Nobutada…”
“Nipponese?” The voice from the palanquin responded with some measure of surprise, “Are you a messenger sent by the Third King Yanluo of Hell?”
Oda Nobutada was just about to respond when Zhang Zeguang suddenly tugged at his robe and responded in his place, “Yes.”
Seconds later, the voice from the palanquin spoke up once more, “And who might you be?”
“Minister of the Department of Ghost Resources, Zhang Zeguang.” It took Zhang Zeguang almost all of his might to respond under the enormous weight of the Yin energy bearing down on him. Even the Yin energy from his body had begun to seep out through his pores.
Monster… The domineering presence before them sent waves of chill spreading from the depths of their hearts.
“Haha…” The voice from the palanquin chuckled hoarsely. Meanwhile, a tense rustling sound could be heard coming from the palanquin, almost as though maggots were writhing around excitedly from within, “The Third King Yanluo of Hell seems rather cautious… As I’d imagined, something calamitous must have happened to Hell. Otherwise, why would Hell even bother sending a pawn to me? The old Hell would have sent an army in a heartbeat…”
“I can still recall the glories of the old Hell. Back then, even a rogue Yama-class evil ghost would be dealt with summarily without bothering with such negotiations and talks in the first place… Tsk tsk… Each generation is truly worse than the preceding one…”
Zhang Zeguang lowered his head and gnashed his teeth as a multitude of thoughts began to spin in his mind.
As a former provincial governor of the mortal realm, he was naturally experienced in such matters of negotiations and bilateral talks. He also knew it was part and parcel of his obligation to live up to his name as the Minister of the Department of Ghost Resources. Thus, after several seconds, he gathered his thoughts and delivered his rejoinder, “Sir, with respect, that’s not entirely correct.”
“For all intents and purposes, Hell is currently already in charge of several provinces. In the process of doing so, we’ve defeated the Umbral Mount Tai Alliance of Darkness, and taken down Kong Mo’s base of operations. Had we not done so, you wouldn’t be standing here right now. I wonder if you know about the Mythic Palace of Reflections?”
Oda Nobutada lowered his head and glanced back at Zhang Zeguang in surprise. He’d never expected the seemingly feeble and frail minister to speak with such eloquence when it mattered to turn the tide in their favour!
“Mythic Palace of Reflections?” The voice in the palanquin finally grew somewhat austere, “What city did it project?”
Zhang Zeguang could sense a deep, abstruse gaze fall directly on him, almost as though a death god was running his finger directly across the surface of his soul. It was a feeling that caused goosebumps to creep up all over his skin! Even then, he steeled his mind and responded, “The First Pass under Heaven, Shanhai Pass.”
Back in the palanquin, the eyes of the daolord of the asura narrowed abruptly.
Shanhai Pass… The Mythic Palace of Reflections actually replicated the Shanhai Pass, and… Hell actually managed to breach its defenses?!
Didn’t the dynastic change affect the might of Hell’s forces in the slightest bit?Previous Chapter Next Chapter